Friday, July 17, 2015

Race Report: Rock 'n' Roll Seattle Half Marathon

RnR Seattle Start Line
We sat on the Tarmac for an extra hour and a half before setting out for Seattle on my flight from JFK. Turns out, there was some stormy weather right in our path, and add to the fact that more than twenty planes were in front of us lined up for take off, we were surely to be delayed. The flight was going to land at 10:15pm, and Donna and Hollie were gonna pick me up, but after the six and a half hour flight, we didn't land until after midnight, just a bit too late for them to pick me up since they had to race in the morning, too.

Upon arrival I went straight to the Link station and got as close to downtown as possible. Apparently, after a certain time, the Link stops running past Beacon Hill, and riders have to transfer to a bus into downtown.  It was already 1am so I wasn't having any of that and called an Uber to get me to the hotel. Thankfully, I had coordinated with my friend Dave while we sat on the tarmac in New York, and he had a hotel room at the Best Western Executive with an extra bed (and it was literally a two minute walk from the start corrals) so I bunked with him for the night after arriving close to 1:30, opting to stay with Donna the next night, as we had opted to leave on Sunday, and Dave was off to Los Angeles hours after completing the Seattle race to do the LA Front Runners Pride Runs the next day.
All ready to go before the race!
Fireworks off the Space Needle

Half Fanatics assembled before the race
(Photo from Half Fanatics June 2015 Newsletter)

Early the next morning, we rose to get ourselves to the start line on the southeast corner of the Seattle Center; I picked up my bib, and got together for photos with Half Fanatics and Fifty States Club members before the race.  Soon, fireworks were set off from the Seattle Space Needle, and we were off!  We took off down 4th Avenue, making a small turn to continue down 5th Avenue into downtown Seattle, and toward Westlake Center.  We ran underneath the Seattle Center Monorail, and just after mile 1, ran right by the Seattle Central Library, a Rem Koolhaas-designed building that I happened to study when I was in architecture school.  So, of course, I stopped to snap a photo!

Running past the Seattle Central Library

Oh, hey NUUN... I see you!
We continued to steadily climb in elevation along 5th Avenue, finally turning left onto S. Dearborn St., where we began a nice downhill for about a mile.  Just after mile 2, we ran right by the building where Nuun is headquartered, so I stopped for a quick photo there as well!  Steadily down Dearborn, we took a right onto Rainier Avenue, passing underneath I-90.  We'd run down Rainier Avenue for about 2 1/2 miles - right through the neighborhood of Mount Baker, which happened to be the site for a project I worked on while I was in graduate school but only saw in photos!  Somewhere between mile 4 and 5, a noticeable smell overtook my senses -- and sure enough, on the right side of the street were several marijuana dispensaries, as Washington had legalized marijuana three years ago!  We continued down Rainier into Columbia City past Genesee Street for a few more blocks until a turnaround point brought us back up the street and finally making a right turn onto Genesee.

"Run Happy" barge in Lake Washington
At mile 6, we turned left onto 43rd Avenue, following this street up to the fairly flat Lake Washington Boulevard.  Half marathoners turned left to continue up the boulevard, while full marathoners turned right for an additional six miles along the shore of Lake Washington.  We continued up Lake Washington Boulevard northward for about 1 1/2 miles, with a gorgeous view of the Lake on our right side.  Out in the lake, there was a barge with large "Run Happy" inflatables for runners to take in.  In the distance, you could see Mercer Island, and the I-90 Floating Bridge, which the full marathoners would also cross.

Pause for a photo with downtown
Seattle in the background from I-90
As we ran toward I-90, we made our way up a path that took us to the tunnel that carried I-90 underneath Mount Baker.  On the approach, I nearly had to hurdle a bollard that I didn't see in front of me.  We turned left into the tunnel and continued for just over half a mile - I wasn't too fond of the tunnel, as I felt like I was overheating as we ran through it.  We emerged onto I-90, running westward, while traffic whizzed by on the east ramp.  By this time of day, the sun was out and blazing, and we made our way through one of the steepest sections of the course, a 240 foot incline over 1/4 mile at mile 9.  Running on highway ramp was also hard, as we didn't have the firm ground to support us - only the concrete holding up the road.  There were some folks that needed medical attention, likely because of the heat while on I-90, which looked like to be a harrowing and logistical nightmare trying to get medical personnel onto this part of the race course.  I soldiered on, crossing the ribbon of I-90 and I-5 and hitting the mile 10 mark, with Seattle's sports stadiums and arenas in the distance.

With Justin and Leny,
minutes before finishing the race!
(Photo by Leny Debler)
We exited off the highway and back onto the downtown streets, taking 4th Avenue northward, past Seattle King Street Station to our left and then turning onto 2nd Avenue.  We continued in a northwesterly direction as we made our way through Pioneer Square, and then hit the mile 11 mark where we turned left onto Seneca Street for a STEEP, STEEP 70 foot drop to the Alaskan Way Viaduct, the elevated highway that overlooked Puget Sound.  Along the way, I ran into my friend Dave.  We passed the Waterfront Park and the Seattle Great Wheel on our left, while the famous Pike Place Market was up on the hill to our right.  At mile 12, we entered yet ANOTHER tunnel, exiting onto Aurora Avenue.  While in the tunnel, I ran into Leny Debler, a runner friend/courageous cancer survivor/fellow RnR "gypsy"/fellow Fifty Stater.  I decided to chat a bit with Leny, and then run with her at her pace to the finish.  We finally emerged out of the tunnel and continued down Aurora Avenue, then veered off to the right to make the slight turn out and around to take the underpass to get us to the finish line along Mercer Street.  As we made the turn, we ran into another mutual friend, Justin!  The three of us continued on, vowing to be hand in hand as we crossed the finish line... And we did!

Victory headstand, with a
perfectly placed Space Needle!
I completed my 38th lifetime half in 2:32:11, finishing it in style.  I made my way over to the Heavy Medal tent and picked up my snazzy "Headliner" medal, marking my 9th Rock 'n' Roll race of the year, and met up with friends for some photos in the family reunion area, in addition to reuniting with an old classmate of mine, Jake, who had relocated to the Seattle area nearly a decade ago.  All in all, a great race, and a wonderful tour of this great city.  This would be my last half for about four weeks, as my next one would not be until July in Portland, Maine - my position as Assistant Race Director for the New York City Pride Run on June 27 required my attention for the next few weeks!


Delicious post race noms...

Boom, number 9!

4/6 of the Renegades reunite in the Pacific NW!

Necessary stop at the world's FIRST Starbucks!
Until next time, Seattle!

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